review

SPRING TIME IN THE YOOP

if anyone besides myself reads about the ‘splake doings’ they will have noted a slight pause in my materials.  anna, my computer ‘techie’ and site genius recently had a baby daughter, which explains the brief literary vacation.  also noting the adventure shining in little ada’s eyes, i suspect that now anna certainly understands the demands of rat bastard time.

recently i have had two collections of splake poems published.  the “ghost light” chapbook was produced by gage press in downstate battle creek, michigan.  “last dance” was published by “transcendent-zero press, in houston, texas.
in addition, the february edition of “brevities,” edited by joyce and robin odam, in sacramento, california, had a special splake profile containing ten poems.
finally, tyler tichenaar, book editor of the “marquette monthly,” in marquette michigan, wrote a review of the splake book “graybeard memories: morning espresso musings” in the april issue of the “marquette monthly” publication.

splake3.jpg

“ghost light” poems

quiet stillness

early november morning
first white dusting
winter finally settling in
older poet remembering
thanksgiving family dinners
stuff baked turkey
sweet potatoes pecan pie
currier and ives plates
horses pulling sleigh
across snowy countryside
mother father children
waiting holiday feast

heaven sent

dark night communion
eating drinking
body and blood of christ
rejoicing sacred heart
certain after death
entering holy kingdom
not going to hell
aging graybeard poet
denying eternal mystery
question without answer
instead hoping for
club majestic nights
country-western songs
vintage jukebox selections
icy pitcher beer
eightball challenges
quarters on table edge
cue ball off cushion
rule for winning
easy baby easy

splake1.jpg
“last dance” poems

motorcycles and poetry

kicking bike alive
exciting cc’s exploding
roaring engine power
like sexual climax
near-death experience
few klicks down the road
challenging adventure
as facing blank page
wrestling for words
fearing fatal accident
riding beyond red-line
writing not visceral enough
for poem’s final draft
still wind-blown pleasure
as wild bird soaring
heading toward heaven
until running out of gas

mysterious messages

waking in darkness
printer’s wild humming
wondering about words
roy neary
devils tower meeting
poem from orizaba
new mexican city blues
uncle walt’s command
take to open road
robert frost’s suggestions
hiking less traveled path
surprise haiku
gary synder’s pen
brother brautigan’s directions
secret trophy trout pond
david foster wallace
explaining new freedom
old papa hem
from across the river
describing what lies beyond

splake2.jpg

“brevities” poems

poet’s driven habits
ignoring everyone else
those talking art

# # # #

snow began slowly
steady quiet accumulation
april years away

# # # #

caffeine fried brain
before family and career
poet scribbling words

# # # #

mad poet
wild reckless passions
living beyond edge

# # # #

ink smeared page
writing until
blood stained words

# # # #

“marquette monthly” april, 2017

tyler tichelaar review

“graybeard memories: morning espresso musings”

Several of t. kilgore splake’s volumes of poetry have been reviewed in this column, but this one is different. While it has the typical splake lack of capitalization, it is also written in paragraph form. At first, I thought it was a long prose poem, and it certainly has some poetic moments, but it’s more prose than poem, which is understandable since it is splake’s autobiography.

I found graybeard memories interesting since it gave me insight into the personal life of this poet and made me better understand his poetry. It begins with splake sitting in the Rosetta Café in Calumet drinking coffee and feeling attracted to the young female barista, but he realizes she would never be interested in him. He goes on to describe himself: octogenarian, teeth falling out, no longer fertile.

Then he takes the reader back to his early years growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan and how he eventually decided to pursue “the bitch-goddess of academic success” by attending Western Michigan University and then getting a teaching job in Battle Creek at Kellogg Community College. At times, teaching was not that enjoyable for him, but he did seem to care about his students and subject matter.

splake also walks us through his numerous relationships with the opposite sex. He got his college girlfriend pregnant and married her. They tried to be a couple, but eventually they divorced, which he describes as the “final chapter in a sad situation of two spoiled children who had made a mistake.”

splake would have two more failed marriages and more children. He seemed to have a knack for attracting women with psychological issues–the third wife threatened to kill  herself and make it look like he had murdered her.  splake admits his free spirit and penchant for alcohol didn’t help his marriages.

During all these years of teaching and marriage, splake began to make rip s to the Upper Peninsula, which seemed to be a saving grace for him.  During one trip, he came to terms with his drinking.  On another, he began writing poetry.  To this day, he isn’t sure what caused him to write poetry one morning, but he did and he showed his work to an English professor colleague who thought it was good.  Still doubtful about the quality of his poems, splake created a pseudonym to protect him from embarrassment–he combined the names of a fish he had caught, his first name’s initial and a name in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Breakfast of Champions to become t. kilgore splake.

Eventually, splake retired and moved to the U.P., first living in Munising and later in Calumet, where he currently lives.  The last chapters of the book describe the years he spent studying poetry until he finally bought a French beret to wear as a sign that he was ready to announce himself as a poet.  He describes his involvement with the local arts community, including the Vertin Gallery, editing the journal cliffs soundings and being given a Lifetime Achievement award by the U.P Writers Association.  The book includes several of splake’s photos of places mentioned in the book, especially around Calumet.

splake is in some ways your typical rough-living Hemingway type writer, but in other ways, he has a distinct voice.  This book will be welcomed by his fans because it gives his full story, only pieces of which could previously be gleaned from his poetry.

For more information, visit splake’s blog at https://tksplake.wordpress.com

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and the beat goes on

pushcart nomination

     my close writing friend antler, a nationally recognized poet who lives in milwaukee, wisconsin nominated me again for pushcart literary honors. antler is one of the most honest and trustworthy artists in my small creative circle. borrowing from the biblical reference, “many are called but few are chosen,” i hope this year we win.

 

book review

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the 2017 issue of “onthebus” published the review of the splake book “backwater graybeard twilight” written by charles p. ries.

 

t. kilgore splake

Backwater Graybeard Twilight

Thunder Sandwich Publishing
PO Box 508, Calumet, MI 49913
ISBN: 0-9718948-0-91     91 pp.     $17.50

Thomas Hugh Smith was 44 years old when he wrote his first poem in 1979. Now known as t. kilgore splake, he has become one of the small press icons. His work and name appear everywhere. The self-proclaimed “graybeard dancer” told me, “Early one l979 morning while nursing a modest hangover and drinking a cup of coffee brewed from the coals of the previous night’s campfire, I felt compelled to write my thoughts about the past several days living in the pictured rocks wilderness outback. I collected several additional poems over my summer of camping, and upon returning to Battle Creek after Labor Day, they were published in my first chapbook edition titled pictured rocks poetry.”

Until that day Splake had never written poetry, “I taught political science at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Michigan, for twenty-six years. I lectured on the dynamics of a federal system of government and outlined the characteristics and functions of the American political party system. However, outside the world of academia, my job status was at best anonymous. If I was in with a strange group of people and asked what I did for a living, I might as well have replied I was a brain surgeon for the understanding most people have of what is political science. Now, I declare myself a poet, and it still seems I am anonymous to the average individual.”

Backwater Graybeard Twilight is the magnum opus of Splake’s work. It is a comprehensive collection of both his word and photo art. The 150 pages devoted to his writing are dense and word filled; word overflowing, words everywhere; for Splake puts to paper what comes to his mind in what he calls stream of consciousness prose. I asked him about this and he told me, “What initially attracted me to poetry, and later writing stream of consciousness prose, was the absence of necessary writing rules. In a doing contest with the ever elusive damn-dame lady muse, I seize a passion and redline it. I still compose my writing works in long hand, scribbling between the lines of quill econo legal padlets. With the rough long hand drafts, I then key a poem or a story into a word document and turn to the fine-tuning the writing into the best shape possible.”

One of the characteristics of the writing in Backwater Graybeard Twilight is its sheer volume. I often felt like I was drowning in a tidal wave of images and metaphors. This machine gunning of words often left me feeling lost and falling; not an altogether unpleasant experience, but even numinous falling needs nuance and direction lest we shut down the sponge in our head that reads and absorbs. Here is an example from, “homeboy escape”: “small town, womb nurturing captive population of fascists / and losers, hometurf where acting like a man is all important, // a few basking in fleeting, momentary athletic glories, awash / in school colors, cheers, the rest settling for spectator status, small // value for sadness of beating nobody, // small numbers move on town the highway, seeking college / education, others off to a career, some branch of the military service, most quickly back at home, armed and relieved, convenient excuse,” and on it goes for two more pages. Image on image, metaphor after metaphor, with only commas to give my mind a breath.

I asked Splake about this volume of words and whether themes get lost in the word pile. He sort of answered my question, “I believe in a pizza theory of poetry. Imagine being on a date and discussing what kind of a pizza to order. If I might suggest a pizza with anchovies, my feminine acquaintance might reply, “Ugh, I can’t stand those slimy little fish.” Where if she would suggest a pineapple pizza, I would not find pineapple agreeable to my culinary palette. Yet neither anchovies nor pineapple are bad, they simple represent a difference in individual tastes. I think the same analogy holds true for poetry. There are no good or bad poems, and what is good in poetry simply appeals to one’s aesthetic sensibilities. I can, and do not believe that the poems and stories I write will be liked by all those who read them. An anchovy lover will not win over a pineapple devotee.” I can’t argue that all art is loved by someone and finds a home, but does poetry lose its power (brevity) when it becomes overloaded? I think it does, but this does not diminish Splake’s achievement or skill in accomplishing it, it just means his audience will be filled anchovy lovers who welcome his form of word art.

Backwater Graybeard Twilight is broken into titled, Being, NonBeing and Becoming – I was most drawn to Becoming (can I say the pineapple section) where Splake delivers more then a few poems I could read, digest, inhale such as this excerpt from, “the mountain beyond”: “mournful foghorn elegy / chuck spires vanishing / gray dying light / san fran bay / union street hill / below Washington square / bro brautigan / bench shadows / ben franklin statue / brown sipping sack / bard blood a-hummmmmm/inviting Alcatraz gulls / to carry him home / musical wings / through vivaldi’s season / escaping / life’s surface mirror.” Splake’s gift is his facility with image, his challenge maybe mitigating the blinding speed with which he lets these images fall to his paper.

I asked Jim Chandler, whose Thunder Sandwich Publishing published Backwater Graybeard Twilight what drew him to Splake’s work and he told me “I believe Splake is unique because his style is unlike that of anyone I’m familiar with. I suspect that most people who have read any Splake could pick his work out of poems by 10 (or 20 or 100) poets by reading a line or two. I know I can. The talent obviously speaks for itself, since one doesn’t bother to interview untalented people. Splake is the most dedicated writer I know; perhaps driven is a better word. He sets goals and he doesn’t rest until he achieves them. “

Indeed, he is a Type-A poet if ever there was one; a volcano of productivity. In an interview conducted by Peter Magliocco of ART:MAG Splake describes himself as a proverbial over-achiever who TRIES HARDER and I would agree. I asked him if, as he nears his 70th birthday, if he has enough time to get it all done and he told me, “ NO! I do not have enough time in the working day to bring my attention to all of the works that I currently have in progress. What I call “rat bastard time” has truly become my primary adversary. I often hear some of the truly geezer gents at the evergreen café sigh over their coffee mornings and whisper “what am I going to do today.” I feel, how sad I cannot allocate a couple of their unused hours, and possess twenty-six for a day’s lit-laborings. It is obvious they would not miss them.”

Splake has published over 70 chap books of poetry and if that weren’t enough, he is also an excellent photographer. Backwater Graybeard Twilight has over forty pages of his photos, and these are exceptional. His subjects are common and clear. They are lit on the page and easy to assimilate. I asked him if he had to choose poetry or photography, what would it be? In characteristic Splake fashion he didn’t exactly answer my question, but rather the associations my question prompted in his mind, “At present I am moving away from writing poetry and short stories and into the field of movie making. However, note, I am not abandoning poetry, but incorporating a poetry on human “being” into the camera footage that I work with. To date I have produced three DVD movie-length productions: “Splake poetry on location i,” “Splake poetry on location ii,” and the most recent film creation “Splake: the cliffs.” In regards to my filming perspectives, I have been greatly influenced by the work of Jim Jarmusch, and particularly his early movie “Permanent Vacation.” I have also learned a great deal of cinematography from the works of Richard Linklater. His experimental movie which is part of the criterion film package for the movie “Slacker,” has had a strong effect on my movie making attitudes.” Can you hear a man sprinting toward his art? I can.

In less then 20 years Splake has created a lifetime body of work. I asked him about his legacy, “If I flatter myself, I think that t. kilgore splake writings and photographs “might” still be remembered l0 days to a possible full two weeks after I pass on to that “quiet darkness of nothing.” However, I still continue to post my work and daily correspondence to Marcus C. Robyns, archivist for Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan. I do entertain the remote possibility that I possess an Upper Peninsula artistic consciousness and regional identity. So, maybe some future NMU literature or writing students will study the works of Splake. I would like that.”

Jim Chandler is right. Here is a unique voice, talent and personality. Splake is a small press original. While anchovies are not for everyone, even a pineapple lover like me can see the glory in an anchovy. I strongly encourage you to add Backwater Graybeard Twilight to your library.

Review By: Charles P. Ries

 

Note: “onthebus” editor jack grapes included a short note in the edition saying “thanks for all your poetry and prose all these years, and, fighting the good fight along the wide road.”

 

 

calumet art center

     the wooden benches i donated to the art center are currently gathering dust in the dark corners of the art center building. however, the benches have metal tags honoring my mother and father, margaret and emery smith. in addition, there are benches with tags for my children, ted, mike, casey – plus – one for another daughter robin lynn.

 

splake is also identified on separate rosters – one for keweenaw artists – the other as a calumet art center supporter.

finally the wheelchair ramp to provide easier access to the art center is finished. in the coming new year the art center board of directors with submit a proposal for an elevated lift-chair for getting to the art center’s second floor. such an addition would provide greater access to the splake writing room and library in the center.

splakewwcac

 

 

“green stones”

     attached is a photograph for those who watched the splake dvd “green stones.” note: hiking into the remote mining site without snowshoes was a pretty demanding challenge.

greenstones

 

 

published poems

     since the last addition to the splake computer site i have had poems published in several small literary magazines. there were five poems in recent “bear creek haiku” editions. “brevities” published seven splake poems in the november issue. “lilliput review # 197″ had two splake poems, and i am extremely thankful for editor don wentworth getting me extra copies in time to mail with my christmas cards.

 

“bear creek haiku”

 

death

 

maybe after passing

becoming invisible ghost

floating on strange ethers

flitting here and there

like quiet hummingbird

visiting old friends

places once forgotten

 

 

dream of escape

 

lost in yooper blizzard

riding greyhound ghost

orizaba café breakfast

chatting with jack

 

 

“brevities”

 

jazz singer scatting

seeking new pain

lost love blues

 

roots to higher branches

struggling for light

artist’s life breathing

 

lake superior tides

eternal ebbing and flowing

leaving haunted ghosts

 

 

“lilliput review”

 

graybeard waiting

 

slow painful steps

wilderness wanderings

touching tasting reality

almost close enough

nature should let him in

 

 

poet’s journey

 

emerging from trees

end of the trail

looking over cliffs

shining cloud falls

wilderness valley far below

turgid rapids

calm watery pools

graybeard almost home

 

 

2017

     after celebrating the christmas holiday i am eagerly looking forward to the brave new ’17 and days counting.

i have chapbook projects progressing with scot young, editor of“rusty truck press,” dustin pickering, editor of “transcendent zero press,” and gordon purkis, of “shoe music press.” next week another manuscript collection of splake poems will go to gage press in downstate battle creek.

also, in the new year i have ink and space promised in editor bob penick’s new literary journal “ristau,” and chris helvey’s publication “trajectory.

 

ristau

 

“ the drums keep poundin’ a rhythm in the brain”

more splake poems and photogs

recently i have enjoyed success in getting both poems and photographs published in significant small press journals.

george wallace wrote an excellent review of my presa press book “winter river flowing” in the pedestal magazine.  wallace’s remarks are important for the serious splake reader.

 

cover for winter river flowing published by presa press

cover for winter river flowing, published by presa press, reviewed by the pedestal’s george wallace

t. kilgore splake
winter river flowing: selected poems 1979-2014
Presa Press
ISBN: 978-0-9888279-6-7

Reviewer: George Wallace

For lovers of American poetry that flourishes under the radar, wandering through the slow, steady experience of recollecting the past with poet t. kilgore splake will be an experience of ineluctable delight.

In single poems that have basked in the underground, splake offers captivating memory-pieces characterized by fleeting, impressionistic brushstrokes that mount and layer with an inexorable and satisfying sense of inevitability.

To be short, splake writes like a “lonely lake superior lighthouse keeper with time to muse and write”—and asks of his readers that they slow down and listen with the same level of commitment and patience.

Yes, the tales are sometimes told in a disjointed, incomplete way; sufficient to reignite the author’s memory, no doubt, and often capable of rewarding the reader’s faith that, at any moment in the seemingly endless litany of fragmented memory, a golden nugget may emerge.

It requires a certain frame of mind, of course; the ability to take a deep breath, take it in slowly, to fully savor the steady pace of a storyteller with all the time in the world on his hands.

One approaches a splake poem with wonder and anticipation—wait and listen, through the aggregation, for that special moment which will claim the attention.

As much as that may be a challenge for the modern reader when simply confronted with a single splake poem, how will the fast-paced 21st century American make the time to listen to this marvelous voice for a full 150 pages?

For those who can, the rewards are plentiful. There is an incantatory sweep to the author’s voice which invites the splake-savvy reader to trance out with the speaker, go with the flow—mesmerized, as if by a stranger’s monologue in a dusty Upper Peninsula bar, dust motes dancing against the sun-spattered windowpane as the rest of the patrons hunch heavy-shouldered over beer.

splake is an “endless sentence” poet, with a twist. There’s a regularity of rhythmic shorthand that runs consistently through the body of work, an accretion of short sentence fragments that offer snapshot glimpses into a “continuous past” where the present is not only present, but unshakeable.

Still, that’s a Kerouac trope, and the author tips his hand to the beat author in the epigraph to “trout dancing sonata” (2012): july 1947, sal paradise leaving new York with a few veteran benefit dollars, crazy long-hair hipster, dawn of jazz america, following the purity of “on the road” to denver, visiting larimer gang, old colfax bars and poolhalls with dean…”

splake is all-in with Kerouac, it seems; he’s picked up Jack’s old stylistic baton and run with it, dropping articles with abandon and, more importantly, putting down brushstroke after brushstroke of truncated noun phrases and verb phrases that start with –ing.

The opening lines to “far northern dream” (2012) are characteristic:

late afternoon
long quiet pause
january thaw
warm chinook winds
melting long white drifts
graying poet
finishing new verse
surprising words
“suddenly summer old age”
hard to imagine
years rapidly passing

splake’s true to this stylistic approach throughout the 35 years’ worth of poems covered in the book. Turn to almost any page and you’ll find poems that are detailed, minute remembrances reminiscent of Proust, yet yielding—also in Proustian fashion—to the inexorable parade of imagery and moments.

For all the sense that, across the pages, we’re dealing with the writings of a middle-aged man, there is a wilderness-loving, hard-drinking rawness, and immediacy to the early poems which is fundamentally unlike what splake offers us in later poems.

In the early poems, he’s prone to rev up his engine in fine fashion, an angler gripped with fisherman’s fever, going on“tunnel vision odysseys” across southern Ontario, sipping beer and chewing down sausages for untold hours until “bending into motel-service station complex, crashing on pickup truck front seat.” (“journey to climb a mountain,” 1991).

Or he’s picking up strange women outside a bar on some middle-American city street and taking them off to a cabin for a one night stand, then “sneaking away with carom off basement furnace, relieved to be outside, see the sky…” (“the trophy room,” 1993).

It’s not all macho display. splake adopts a worshipful, wistful tone in poems like “winter prayer” (1980), asking the returning sun to “green the spring forest…and bleach my gray beard red…one more time”; in “memories in spring” (1990), taking “communion in the woods…almost like aging primal druid seeking soul mood in quiet sacred nemeton….”

All things must pass, however. As might be expected, the energy level, sense of virility, and pure spunk shift perceptibly as the years pass and splake approaches 80.

In later poems we’re more likely to be confronted with the“graybeard poet angler/ passing misty memories” (“cocaine rainbow trout,” 2001); an “old man on nightly hike/…deep in december tides/” with a “hated millstone career/ alcoholic suicide dance/ avoiding seductive nothingness,” anticipating waking up in the morning with a “wild tiger/ roaring in his skull” (“long white musings, 2006).

It’s worth noting that Ernest Hemingway is one of the many male/macho characters to whom splake tips his hat. In early poems, Hemingway’s invoked as a macho figure with hard-drinking ways, who jumps out of boxcars with seeming abandon. But by the end of the collection, splake reduces Hemingway to just another literary suicide, in a list that includes Hunter S. Thompson, Richard Brautigan, and Richard Corey.

Our author, thankfully, spares us wondering too much about the whole suicide thing. In fact, he leaves us with a taste of his irreducible impulse to hang on, “wrestling with another/ poem two or three/ until mind shuts down/ body wears out…” (“tommy,” 2014).

For those of us who have enjoyed the poetry of t. kilgore splake all these years, and for new readers about to enter his world, that impulse is certainly good news.

use this link to view the story on pedestal magazine’s website.

# # # # #

glimpse published a splake poem in the june issue.

growing up a poet

collecting stamps

british empire issues best

making one-tube radio

listening to foreign voices

assembling model airplanes

balsa cement tissues

summer with cubs

raspy static chicago station

chuck berry fats domino songs

wlac tennessee

lonely boy

shy around girls

tender feelings

hoping someone cares

the latest edition of bear creek haiku published six splake poems.

riding with delivery man

bottles clinking in wire baskets

early morning adventure

to end of the block

####

waiting early morning

computer screen warming

creative tensions growing

time to make things happen

third wednesday‘s new production has a splake black-and-white photograph titled “long white spirit”.

splake photo - the long white spirit

splake photo – the long white spirit

lilliput review #196 also published a splake poem.

lilliput review #196

lilliput review #196

beginning

agates describing

fiery explosions

crawling glacier whispers

before fish

leaving fossil lines

quiet echoes

along superior shore

spring edition of trajectory published two splake poems in issue 10.

finishing line

suddenly realizing

days closing fast

rat bastard time disappearing

necessary to stand tall

in small ignorant world

shouting loud goddamn

i was here

this is my poem

finally, i have cover photographs and poems in alison vayne’s june edition of the moon literary magazine.

june edition of the moon

june edition of the moon, cover photo by splake

misfits

arid nevada mesquite

empty desert waiting

new crazy dreamers

escaping civilized life

previous ghosts forgotten

big blond girl

not trusting people

couple of cowboys

suffering broken hearts

john huston film

arthur miller in shadows

wrestling wild horses

hoping solitude

freedom from wages

regular routines

providing quiet peace